Welcome back to Stay Tuned, Vulture’s TV advice column. Each Wednesday, Margaret Lyons answers your questions about your various TV triumphs and woes. Need help? Have a theory? Want a recommendation? Submit a question! You can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.
As someone drawn to the dark, disturbing, and atmospheric, I’ve been meaning to watch Hannibal for a long, long time. But I’m so far behind at this point, should I even attempt this apparently delightfully dark series? Do I have to start from the very beginning? —Eve
You are not that far behind! Hannibal is only one episode into its third season, and the first two seasons are only 13 episodes each. You can knock that out in a weekend, Eve! Though I’ll warn you: That weekend will mess you up. Still, I think you’re better off catching up, but if you insist, you can jump in.
Start with the pilot, and then you can skip around a bit in season one: It’s pretty procedural, and not that hard to grasp. You should definitely watch episode eight, which introduces Gillian Anderson’s character, and episodes 12 and 13. For season two, start with the premiere, watch as many as you believe you have stamina for, and then commit to at least the last three episodes of the season. It’s a bit more serialized, but you’re making a trade-off between confusion and completion, and that’s okay. Season three starts with something of a fresh spin, so jumping in right there will be frustrating.
Here’s a caveat about Hannibal: This show is pretty disturbing. (We talk about it on “The Vulture TV Podcast” this week at length; listen and subscribe!) It is too disturbing for me, personally, and it’s something I keep tabs on for work, not pleasure. If you are squeamish, this is not for you. It is not a good marathon show unless you are very steely, or you really enjoy altered states.
Remember how Homicide had its TV-movie wrap-up way after the series ended? Instead of a reboot or a full revival, are there any shows you wish would have just one more episode? —J
There are tons of shows I’d want one more episode of, a sort of “where are they now” reunion series: Gilmore Girls, though it would be heartbreaking without Edward Herrman. Maybe Mr. Katimski is retiring, and everyone from My So-Called Life comes back to town to pay tribute? I’d watch that. A Sports Night reunion could work in a bunch of ways, but I’d love something super-meta, like a 30 for 30–esque documentary about the show within the show, Sports Night. Because there’s no way that third-place show still exists, right? CSC folded, everyone found other jobs, and now, 15 years later, some diehards want to make an argument that it was the best sports-TV show ever.
I’d love to see those promised Deadwood wrap-up movies. More Enlightened would also be nice. A Party Down movie would thrill me to no end, though a sliver of me is nervous that too many of the characters would still be miserably stuck in catering, and that would make me sad. It’d be worth it, trust, but if Henry was still in a pink bow-tie, I would be crushed. Give me one more Southland. One more Bored to Death. I want to know how everyone from Ugly Betty is doing. Are the people from Terriers okay? I hope. If I think about Pushing Daisies too much, I’ll cry. I want a 90-minute update episode of The Middleman so badly.
But even more than I want all these revisits, I want shows to start having throwback episodes, reunion specials that are situated during the show’s original run. Like a “lost” episode. And the show I want this for the most is The West Wing. I want one more Sorkin episode of The West Wing, and I want it to occur during, oh, season three. Maybe between “The U.S. Poet Laureate” and “Stirred” — sometime before Agent Sunshine shows up. I would so happily suspend disbelief about people looking older (and Leo simply being out of the office, sob) just to have another go-round. I would go back further, too: Maybe an addendum to season one, explaining Mandy’s departure? The joy here would be how ordinary the premise would be. It doesn’t have to be about some big death or One Last Gig or a wedding or anything. It would just be one more episode of the show, just like the old days. Ah, dreams.
My boyfriend and I would like you to settle a longtime debate. Who’s the best sitcom actress of this generation: Lisa Kudrow or Julia Louis-Dreyfus? I argue for the incredible nuanced and layered performance of Valerie Cherish, he argues for the fast-and-furious hilarity JLD gives as Selina Meyer. Then there’s Friends, Seinfeld, Web Therapy, and The New Adventures Of Old Christine to consider. So who reigns supreme? Or is there a bigger TV goddess we’re leaving out of the conversation? —Ryan
Oh, this is almost impossible. These people are my queens. It also makes me wish Kristen Johnston was on a better show than The Exes, and that Christine Baranski was still doing comedy. Laurie Metcalf is up there, too. Phylicia Rashad. I wish Bonnie Hunt had been on more and better shows, because I’m convinced she’d be No. 1.
But okay, Kudrow versus JLD. It’s not possible to determine who is funnier. They are both at the maximum there. We have to look at the flip side, then, at how much they play the drama within the comedy, and this brings us to an unfair moment: The Comeback is much, much sadder than Veep. (And even going back, Phoebe has a few really touching monologues, which is something Elaine would never do.) I have cried at The Comeback. I have not cried at Veep. Even if I include how much I loved JLD’s non-TV work in Enough Said — legit my favorite movie of 2013 — it’s still at that kind of pathos that Kudrow can tease out. I say this as someone who considers herself among Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s biggest fans, but I am giving the ever-so-slight edge to Lisa Kudrow here.